Please note: the call for applications has closed.

We will announce to our researcher community any additional funding opportunities. To join this community please register on the homepage.

1. The Opportunity

We are pleased to announce that the COVID-19 Research Database is launching a grant program, supported by the Gates Foundation, to provide researchers who obtain access to these data an opportunity for research funding. 

The COVID-19 Research Database is a pro-bono, cross-industry collaborative composed of institutions donating technology services, healthcare expertise, and patient-level de-identified data. The database holds a wide array of different data types, including claims data, EHR data, mortality data, consumer data, and lab data. The data includes over 5 billion records across over 250 million people and over 2 million people who have had documented COVID-19. 

To date, nearly 2000 researchers have registered for the COVID-19 database with over 100 studies in progress. The database has yielded over a dozen publications, including in NBER and JAMA Internal Medicine, generated coverage by The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, and led to partnerships with The Economist. Now, for the first time, we are offering selected researchers funding to support their work on the database.

2. The Challenge

This is a request for grant proposals to support studies that will use data in the COVID-19 Research Database to address major research questions and reduce the harm of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The program seeks to accelerate insight that will lead to best practice medical interventions and appropriately targeted mitigation policies for COVID-19 patients and health care systems. It also seeks to meaningfully contribute to the understanding of COVID’s effects on health care economics, the uptake of new technologies, and other dynamics in communities, systems and across countries.

While the program will consider a variety of topics areas within this broad framework, the grant approval committee will be particularly interested in proposals that seek to

  • Prioritize the study of key demographic factors such as sex/gender[1], race/ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status, and geographic factors as determinants of health and well-being during the pandemic.
  • Understand pathways via which these factors modulate outcomes in the context of COVID-19 and its control measures, including a broad spectrum of health and life attributes and behaviors impacted by the pandemic.
  • Inform sex-gender and race/ethnicity equity responsive policy approaches to COVID-19 and capturing any unintended outcomes for different groups.

3. Scope

Research proposals need not be limited to one area; proposals are encouraged that investigate associations across fields, taking advantage of linked datasets available through the COVID-19 Research Database.  Projects designed to detect trends or assess policy impacts and unintended consequences of policies are encouraged.  The grant program especially seeks to support studies that have clear potential for informing sex-gender and race equity responsive policy approaches.

Examples of types of cross-cutting research questions, bridging biological and non-biological factors or diverse fields, might include:

  • “Long-haul” COVID-19: identification of symptomatology, biological associations, risk, and duration across age/sex and other factors; incidence, reporting, and health system responses as a function of gender; differential impacts on labor force participation and caregiving.
  • Reproductive health, including pregnancy, and male and female fertility: Biological impact on pregnancy or fertility of COVID-19 infection; behavioral reproductive health changes, including demand for birth control, and demand for and access to antenatal care.
  • Differential loss of income in relation to differentials in health outcomes and social determinants.

At a minimum, all projects, should plan to report disaggregated data by sex-gender and race/ethnicity to the extent feasible.  Proposals should identify the data intended for the analysis, with an initial assessment of appropriateness of available data for sex-gender analysis, as well as any proposed actions to control for biases inherent in real world datasets. 

Additionally, one of the explicit goals of this new grant program is to expand data data availability to researchers outside the US such that the database can catalyze studies that may be relevant to population health policy in low- and middle-income countries. Willingness and ability to advance this ambition will be considered a plus. Moreover, studies showing support from target groups or governmental agencies prepared to use results are strongly encouraged.

4. Possible Research Areas

The following list is meant to be illustrative rather than exhaustive.  The grant program welcomes identification of emerging areas or previously unexplored topics that have significant potential for insight into sex-gender sensitive pandemic responses.

  • Sex as a biological determinant of disease course
  • Differences by groups of health needs, access, utilization and adverse outcomes during the pandemic (COVID and non-COVID) including
    • Demand for and access to COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 care
    • Mental health and suicide
    • Intimate partner violence
    • Differential impacts caused by school closings and other caregiving responsibilities
    • Differential impacts as it relates to socioeconomic outcomes such as income, work, caregiving, etc.
  • Differential perceptions, beliefs, and health behaviors, such as physical distancing, masking, or seeking testing which may vary significantly across groups
  • Variation among groups in wellness behaviors, such as utilization of the natural environment and exercise practices.

5. What we are offering

Successful proposals will be offered the following:

  • Funding of up to $250,000 for a year, with most expected to fall between $50-$100K.
  • Processes and resources to accelerate safe access to, and insight generation from, the rich claims, mortality, lab, EHR, and consumer data available in the COVID-19 Research Database
  • Membership in a broader community that brings together researchers and provides support and inspiration for their work
  • Mechanisms that ensure transparency to enable data contributors and researchers’ contributions to be acknowledged.

6. Principles

We ask that all studies publish their studies either online, a preprint server, or an open peer-review platform upon completion of the manuscript. All work on top of the data — including but not limited to code, notes on how researchers manipulated data, tables, and aggregate data — should be deposited in a repository to be named. The link to the repository will be available on the COVID-19 Research Database website. 

As part of the database’s review process, all results are independently reviewed to ensure proper de-identification; as part of this grant program, you agree to honor that process. Additionally, we ask that you honor the attribution as outlined within the database’s Researcher Hub.

For the grant itself, the amount that can go towards indirect costs is capped at 10 percent. The grants cannot be used to cover equipment or faculty (or equivalent) salaries.

7. Selection criteria

Grant proposals will be evaluated based on a combination of 1) alignment of the proposal with the stated areas of research focus described above; 2) originality of the hypothesis and approach; 3) quality of the proposed method and research team; 4) the likelihood results will have impact on the pandemic and future research; 5) the resource need(s) demonstrated by research groups.

Of note, we deeply value equity and wish to ensure broad representation of traditionally underrepresented research groups and universities. 

Grant eligibility extends to all researchers/research teams seeking to undertake COVID-19-related research in the public’s interest, and who are willing to adhere to all the requirements of the grant program, with the exception of current or former employees of the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI). All researchers/teams receiving a grant under this program must do so under the auspices of an organization rather than as individuals; receipt of funds is contingent on execution of a standard grant agreement between HCCI and the researcher/team’s organization.

8. Application process and timeline

The call for submissions will be launched on May 6, 2021 and the deadline for initial submissions will be 11:59 pm ET on Friday May 28, 2021.

The application process is as follows:

  1. Registration: Register for the COVID-19 Research Database at covid19researchdatabase.org.
  2. Submit Application Form: Within the application form, complete BOTH the routine application for access to the COVID-19 Research Database AND the additional questions at the end of that form. N.B The application will go through the standard review process; we cannot review funding applications until initial data access is granted.
  3. Scientific Steering Committee Review: The initial proposal will be reviewed by the Scientific Steering Committee of the COVID-19 Research Database.
  4. Scientific Steering Committee Approval: Once approval for data access is given, you will be notified and you can begin your research if you are comfortable doing so prior to a funding decision.
  5. Grant Review Committee: Proposals requesting funding will be reviewed by our Grant Review Committee. Applications that do not receive a grant will still receive access to the database for research.
  6. Funding Announcement: We expect to make funding decisions no later than June 9th, 2021.

[1] Although “sex” and “gender” have been used interchangeably in the literature, analytical distinctions typically assign “sex” to biological differences between males and females, whereas “gender” refers to economic, social, and cultural attributes and opportunities associated with being male or female in a particular social setting at a particular time.  The use of “sex-gender” is sometimes used to refer to instances where the two are intermixed and not easily factored apart.  Here we use “sex-gender” as a compound to capture sex, or gender, or both.